24. Conrad Anker

Alpinist

Conrad Anker     Photo: Joe Ciardiello

Picks The North Face athletes

The North Face is the world’s largest expedition funder not called the National Geographic Society. The company pays a team of 71 athletes to lead adventurous lives, with the express purpose of making the rest of us envious enough to buy the clothes off their backs. Gaining entry into that squad requires solid skills and, more important, the blessing of one man: Conrad Anker. “Usually within 15 minutes of meeting a person, I’ll know,” says Anker, 49, who also has a big say in which athletes’ projects become major ad campaigns. Like most employers, Anker looks for people who are hardworking, humble, and—oh, yeah—among the top athletes in the world. “We’re resting the brand’s legitimacy on that person,” says Anker. “It’s not just, ‘I’m the best climber, now where’s my check?’ ”

By the Numbers 28: years Anker has been employed by TNF as a professional climber;
$1.5 billion: TNF’s approximate annual revenue

Second Opinion “He’s the kingmaker,” says TNF climber and photographer Jimmy Chin, whom Anker hired in 2001. “Beyond bringing in me, Renan Ozturk, Alex Honnold, and others, Conrad has helped steer company policy and environmental giving.”

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